Friday, December 16, 2011

Supporting Our Troops This Holiday Season — Thank You, Patrick!

While many of us will spend the holidays cozied up by the fire in the company of loved ones, 24-year-old U.S. Army Sgt. Patrick Thisius and the few-dozen soldiers he's stationed with in a remote corner of Afghanistan just have each other and whatever comes through the mail from folks back home.

This Christmas will be the third one Thisius spends apart from his wife and family. To help ease the pain of separation, Bishop-Wisecarver put together a big care package for Thisius and his band of brothers and sisters stationed halfway across the world this holiday. It's the least we can do to thank them for their service!

"This time of year is really, really tough on him," said Thisius' mom, Sharel Thisius. "He's missed out on a lot of things, like his sister's wedding and family activities. That's one of the hardest things about this trip. These guys miss out on all those little things we take for granted."

It's a struggle for them to not feel left out ... you can hear it in their voices when they call home, she added. So to get these boxes packed with things like wet wipes, toiletries, clothes, books and DVDs means a lot, especially for soldiers like Thisius who grew up in a large family with strong holiday traditions.

Thisius will likely spend another several months on a small, isolated operating base without access to a convenience store or the luxury of entertainment, his family said. A bunch of soldiers there recently ran a marathon in Santa hats just to break up the monotony. So, receiving mail or gifts of any kind turns into a big event.

Bishop-Wisecarver President Pamela Kan was inspired to send a care package to Thisius and his companions by fellow members of the Women Presidents Organization (WPO) chapter who had been sending some to them for several months.

"It's important to thank these guys for what they're doing, especially this time of year," Kan said. "I have a deep appreciation for them because of all the travel I do — I go all over the world and every time I come back it reaffirms how much I value the freedoms we have at home."

On the flip side, Thisius and his colleagues get to soak up the attention from friends, family and strangers stateside, said his mom, who staged a very early Christmas for her son during his last leave in September.

"It means so much, this generosity, because they lead such hard lives out there," said Ann Blackburn, Thisius' aunt and another WPO member. "They sleep with their boots on and wake up to a world with no trees, all desert and nothing familiar."

So in the spirit of the season, we'd like to extend not just those gifts, but also a sincere "thank you" to the military men and women stationed overseas during the holidays ... you're not forgotten!